By Sarah Field
The word HackFu can be heard on an almost daily basis around the MWR offices and one of the key ingredients to making the event what it is today is the unique and innovative challenges that are at its heart. Another key feature of HackFu is that it never stands still and is always looking to evolve and develop. A key part of that is finding new challenges and more importantly new challenge writers to contribute.
Everyone at MWR (and people at the other businesses that take part in the event) get involved in designing and submitting challenges. As a result we always have a diverse set of puzzles and cyber security challenges for the attendees to get stuck into at the event!
What’s more, if you are looking to run your own event or contribute to HackFu in future, you’ll need your own challenges and therefore you’ll need those wanting to give it a go to be successful in producing them. We’ve therefore put together a guide for both novice and experienced challenge builders alike to help you produce HackFu-quality puzzles and challenges.
You can find the handy advice in our dedicated advice section for building your own HackFu!
These tips were produced by HackFu veteran and challenge builder Matt H, who whilst putting his them together, took the time to tell us about some of the best challenges he’s seen at HackFu.
“From a technical perspective there was a challenge one year where you had to find and exploit a bug in a remote server without being given a copy of the binary or any source code. The creator built in just enough feedback from the challenge that you could see what direction you needed to go in and check if you were making progress along the way. Despite being quite difficult, you always felt you were getting somewhere. Of course, this was a highly technical challenge, and one that you really needed some specialist skills to complete. Despite this, we were able to explain the solution to our team mates who didn’t have these skills in a way that they understood the majority of how we completed it.“
“Another challenge a lot of people loved was a maze programming challenge. A web page presented you an image of a maze, different each time, and gave you a limited time window to submit encoded directions to get to the centre of the maze. There was no way to do this in human-time, so you had to write a program. This was a very simple concept, but required people get to grips with some aspects of programming they may not routinely use. In this challenge there was never any doubt of what you were supposed to do, but actually doing it took some thought.”
“Finally, another one that sticks out in my mind involved driving a purpose built remote controlled robot around a dark room, using it to find and disable various traps, before venturing in to the room to retrieve an Aztec idol without setting off any of the traps. If you failed, you were liable to get shot by an automated nerf gun or set off various booby traps that meant you lost some points. This one was really fun because it was very physical, and took the virtual nature of what we do into the physical world around us. It also had clear steps (the various traps to disarm), although that didn’t stop my team and I from failing to recognise a phone number because of the addition of some arbitrary colons between the numbers! It’s amazing how much less your brain works at 2am after 15 hours of tense hacking…”
If this has inspired
you to build your own challenge, check out Matts tips for building your own
In our opening article we discuss how we see the problem space and what some of the challenges are so given all of that, what are we looking to achieve with this website.
As we said previously we don’t claim to know all the solutions but we are certainly trying things that will enable us to find them. Along the way we’ll learn lots of lessons, we’ll no doubt have a few false starts but we’ll also get some stuff right. It’s that journey that we’re going to share on this site, including all the initiatives and events that we’re planning to run to support it all.
We don’t know yet exactly what will be on this site but the one thing we’re certain of is that it will be thought provoking, philosophical, challenging and most importantly it will be fun and engaging. We’ll get techie at times, something we make no apology for, as well as extracting the concepts and key points that we encounter along the way.
We also want your help on our journey. We want you to tell us your thoughts and experiences of what we’re doing and hopefully some stories about how you’ve taken our ideas and turned them into your own projects, events and general awesomeness. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly and to get involved please get in contact via Twitter and then keep coming back to this hub for more insight and information.
So hold on tight, this will be a wild ride for all of us.